Monday Dec 16, 2013

Designing the Oracle Voice User Experience: Oracle Shares the Lessons

Brent White, User Experience Architect in the Oracle Mobile Applications User Experience team, explains how voice technology has become popular for mobile users and how Oracle has met this opportunity to make enterprise users more productive too. By combining user experience insight and technologies, Oracle Voice has come to life for Oracle Sales Cloud customers. Brent now shares the lessons of designing voice-based task flows in the enterprise.

Voice technologies have now gained steam for mobile users, and growing numbers of consumers are becoming comfortable talking to machines. Some of us already regularly dictate a note, execute a call, or make a search by voice, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Voice has become a hands-free interface that goes well beyond a simple input mechanism and offers solutions to real design problems in the enterprise, as well as the consumer space.

Oracle’s Mobile User Experience (UX) team has been exploring voice technologies as they evolved. Our interest intensified with the release of Siri intelligent voice assistant on the Apple iPhone in 2011. By converging several technologies, Oracle has designed a mobile voice solution for our Oracle Sales Cloud customers, Oracle Voice.  And, more is to come!


Oracle Voice enables users to talk to the Oracle Sales Cloud; speaking naturally to view, edit, and add notes to customer opportunities. Whereas Siri enables users to interact with personal data on their phones such as contacts, settings and calendar, the focus of Oracle Voice is to enable users to interact with their enterprise sales data as part of an overall task flow.

Oracle Voice UI

Oracle Voice user interface. A clear UI and underlying technology that recognizes the names of important objects in the task flow are some of Oracle's shared UX design insights.

The UX team invested in technology and user research over the last two years to refine the product, testing it internally with the Oracle salesforce, and externally too with sales reps as they perform real tasks in real situations. Along the way, the team identified key guidelines for the optimal usage of voice in the enterprise. Here are some of the things learned:
  1. More and more sales reps are using voice technologies to get their work done productively. Expect enterprise use cases to increase.
  2. Voice to text is only part of the technical solution. Natural language processing (or NLP) and understanding users’ context are important related technologies that we had to develop in order to provide a voice solution. 
  3. Understand what enterprise users do, the when and the where, of being mobile. Support only such users most frequent and basic tasks. Voice is not for everything. 
  4. Make voice usage a hands-free operation. And don’t forget any legal requirements, for example when driving.
  5. Voice recognition must understand user data, such as the names of important objects in their task flows and the relationships between the objects. For example, voice must recognize the input of proper names, such as customer names, that are part of the sales cloud. 
  6. Users will want to use voice-based search to find key information. For instance, users will want to just say the name of a customer in order to see opportunity details returned. Provide for fast search and a way to integrate the results.
  7. Make the UI clear so that users know what task flow is being completed. Misrecognitions of voice inputs do happen, so provide an ability to correct misrecognitions easily and to continue. 
  8. Keep voice interaction flows short. Remember, a human is talking to a machine that understands enterprise data but hardly anything else, until it learns it. It is not a normal human conversation (yet!) so flows must be as succinct and efficient as possible. 
  9. Although some users may have had only basic experiences with voice recognition in the past, most users that we bring into our usability labs are now surprised at how well the current-state of the-art technology works and helps them to complete simple activities much more quickly (such as when dictating by voice rather than typing a note). With voice recognition accuracy improving steadily, be positioned to respond to more new scenarios of use by having your voice UX roadmap ready.
  10. Add some personality to the voice interaction. Experiment with sounds for the microphone interaction and the opportunities offered by the many natural-to-machine type voice outputs now available. You can even ask Oracle Voice to tell you a joke! 
We’re sharing these insights so that partners and customers can further appreciate and also explore further how Oracle Voice can make their users more productive and how it can be integrated across enterprise applications and data in the cloud. 

We’d like to hear your voice on the use of Oracle Voice and related technology and its usage in the enterprise. Please send us your comments, because we’re listening

Saturday Nov 16, 2013

Building Mobile Apps with Oracle UX and ADF Mobile Made Easy: Design Wiki Available

The Oracle Application Development Framework (ADF) Mobile and Oracle Applications User Experience (UX) teams have published a wiki for builders of mobile apps for tablets and smartphones using enterprise methodology. Bookmark the wiki now!

The wiki provides Oracle developers, customers and partners with a mobile toolkit  enabling the building of great mobile apps for today's workers who demand modern, consumer-like UX while being productive in completing tasks. Check out the information on the Oracle ADF Mobile components and their usage, and how the UX design patterns dovetail with the technology to provide reusable, easily applied solutions for developers. The design guidance now includes content and gestures, and the integration of device features such as voice and camera capabilities. 

ADF Mobile Design enables code once solutions for platforms and devices

Oracle ADF Mobile enables productive building through code-once solutions for platforms and devices.

There is some great task flow explanations too. Using a sample sales app, the wiki shows how tasks and device features are best designed to reflect the requirements for both tablet and smart phone users.

Watch out for more developer productivity resources and outreach coming from the Oracle Applications User Experience,  Oracle ADF, and Oracle PartnerNetwork teams. And, if you're in a position to share the results of these shared Oracle ADF and UX resources by telling us about your built mobile apps and use cases, reach out using the comments or through the customer participation channels on the Usable Apps website and let us know.

We'll share the UX goodness and you can share your greatness!

Thursday Aug 08, 2013

Mobile User Experience Design

Whether on-premise or cloud enterprise applications, workers expect their mobile experiences to “delight and excite.” Applications must be usable, consistently simple, intuitive, and above all, contextual while enabling productivity. The applications must look great, too—after all, your mobile device is something you rely on throughout the day.

The key to building successful mobile applications that meet these ever-demanding expectations—true no matter the platform or deployment—is to begin by focusing on real workers performing real tasks in real work environments. 

The Oracle Applications User Experience team has done just that, undertaking an intensive and ongoing effort to understand the worldwide mobile workforce . A result of our user research: 10 key design practices that address common usability challenges of these on-the-go workers.

These practices, presented recently for some of our partners and customers at the Building Great-Looking Usable Apps workshop  by Lynn Rampoldi-Hnilo and Brent White, have been tested in our labs by actual users performing real tasks and have informed our own reusable and adaptable mobile design patterns  and guidelines.

Interested in learning more? 

Stay tuned to Misha Vaughan’s Voice of User Experience  (VoX) blog and your customer and partner channels so that you can learn about workshops or other deliverables that focus on building great-looking usable mobile applications.

See:

Tuesday Mar 05, 2013

Oracle Endeca User Experience: From Putting the E in E-Commerce to Magical Information Discovery

"Beer." Mark Burrell, Director of User Experience for Oracle Endeca Information Discovery, tells me the apocryphal story of the technology’s origins. “Some Princeton friends were struggling to find a commemorative beer on eBay. They concluded that humans should be able to easily find their way around messy, dynamic information." Using facets (or attributes) to navigate through self-describing, unstructured data, ones that could relate to each other, was the answer:

"Say you’re on a home repairs web site, searching for a washer. Endeca facets would let you discover if it is in appliances, in dishwashers, to find it by style, by size, and so on. Facets summarize the data and guide users in a way that makes sense to their world."

It’s been a rollercoaster ride since the founding "beer quest", with Endeca taking off as an industry leader in the e-commerce and information access world, followed by Oracle acquisition in 2011. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is a real game changer for the enterprise, now answering million-dollar questions:

Answering that Million Dollar Question with Oracle Endeca

Consumerization of Analytics

I was gobsmacked that Mark designed the faceted search for the Irish car website carzone.ie. “Those horizontal sliders on price tested brilliantly. People even play with it” (I have!). Mark’s an evangelist for what user experience really means; his use of personal technology is one of problem solving in new, smart ways. He mentions using LinkedIn to discover professional relationships. Trulia’s faceted information for finding real estate by school district, commutes, and comparing buying and renting options impresses him. Pandora streaming Internet radio service is a fave for his music, with suggestions that are pure “serendipitous discovery”. And then there’s MIT’s Scratch, “computer programming made easy”. He loves the idea of snapping together components, enabling people to build cool stuff, fast.

This story of easily building magical experiences with stunning visualizations to make sense of a virtual world of information and discover new things is right there in the Endeca user experience, too. Mark tells me how Endeca technology explored a very large corpus of published medical data and discovered relationships between asthma and poverty and cockroaches when visualized as a tag cloud. I wonder how long such discovery would have taken, it at all, by manually poring over spreadsheets?

It’s “the consumerization of analytics. We’re in the age of insight,” says Mark.

How Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Works

At the back end, the Endeca engine indexes data, assigns metadata, and exposes salient terms and clusters of information as navigational facets. This provides for a layer of different visualizations and tools to let users easily explore the information.

Sure, traditional business intelligence, dashboards, analytics and so on, have been around for 20 years or more, but fundamentally they’re about the “how” – what formulas are used to show KPIs, for example. Endeca goes beyond that into the “why” of information, the “sweet spot” for decision makers, says Mark.

It’s the “magical” Endeca front end user experience with its visually compelling way of engaging the right users in the discovery of insight from the right information that enables great decisions and timely action, while measuring the results – conversion rates for example – and showing ROI.

For customizers, those great user experiences come easy. The Oracle Endeca Information Discovery Studio combined with a componentized architecture and baked-in best practices are the secret. Creating a geo-spatial visual UX, a cloud tag, or heat map for your data is simple.

Designing a Fully Functional Endeca Page in Minutes

Endeca user experience is based on some of the best interaction design patterns I’ve seen, informed by the power of their technology, design expertise and the consumerized expectations of users living and working in an increasingly mobile and social world of shopping and sharing on the go.

The Business of Information Discovery

Broadly, information discovery product use cases are everywhere. For example, with Endeca, a CPG company can understand what products are performing, in what markets, regions, and what users are saying and how they feel about products, vital in the social world of customer experience.

Oracle Endeca Information Discovery for Workforce: How a HR executive discovers the facts behind the rumors of workers leaving.

Endeca product offerings are represented by Oracle Endeca Information Discovery (for business intelligence and  discovery of any type of information), as well as great e-commerce solutions with Oracle Endeca Customer Experience Manager and Oracle ATG, for example. The ease of use and integration capability makes the experience of working with existing Oracle applications even better too. Oracle Endeca Information Discovery is seamlessly integrated with Oracle E-Business Suite Release 12.1.3 to deliver superior data discovery with killer usability, matched by high performance and mobile capability too. 

Introduction to Oracle Endeca and Oracle E-Business Suite

Big Data versus Bad Data

Clearly, Endeca is a Big Data sense maker, but I mention the problem of bad data and how analytics is this regard can become be lipstick on a pig. Mark counters that Endeca discovery “describes” data for users,  enabling them to multiselect from points of interest. This “amazes customers; they can still explore their data and select what’s important”, he says.

New Interactions for Discovery

Mobile is a big opportunity for Endeca information discovery, especially for tablets Mark feels because of their form factor and the gestures and other device capabilities possible. Exploring a heat map with your fingertips, for example. Those Minority Report movie customer experience (CX) references that everyone likes to use, and offer so much promise, can now be brought to life in your hand, if you like.

Start Discovering Endeca

Developers and user experience aficionados who want to get started with Oracle Endeca Information Discovery should go to the YouTube channel and to the learning information on OTN. To find out more about Endeca applications check out oracle.com.

Thanks to Mark for the magical insights, and for tell us how Oracle Endeca makes information discovery easy and fun. Watch this space…

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